after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Archive for the ‘Happenings’ Category

Leaving Our Hearts in San Francisco

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t says: It’s funny. As “the new guy” at work one question I get asked frequently is “so, where you from?”. The good news is that that the motivation for the inquiry nowadays is different than that I’ve encountered previously:

<Enter flashback …>
“Where are you from …?” “NJ”
“Yea, but where are you really from … ?” “NJ”
“Yea, but where are your parents from …?” :-/ “Still NJ”
<Exit flashback …>

Currently, when folks ask where I’m from, I instinctively answer “San Francisco”. I assume it’s because I think I’m being asked “where did you just come from?”. And while SF is true, I also recognize that we’ve spent less time there than almost anywhere else:
Vineland, NJ = 18 years
Baltimore, MD = 4 years
Pittsburgh, PA = 1 year
Philadelphia, PA = 10.5 years
San Francisco, CA = 3.5 years
Washington, DC = 6 months
So I guess I’m actually still “from” NJ, right?

But man do we miss San Francisco. Sing it Tony Bennett.

So … what’s the point of this post?

Well, after I tell people I’m from San Francisco, I often get asked about how it was (answer: “Awesome!”) and [inevitably] the food (also: “awesome!”). However, as I look at the blog, I realize that we/I kinda fella asleep behind the wheel for our SF time, so I’m going to put all of our best dining experiences into a single post for handy reference (also so we know where we want to revisit in the future).

We ate a lot of ramen in SF – these are our faves:
– Orenchi Beyond – best in the city for pork-based ramen – just make sure you add enough of the add-ons or at least some extra noodles because the base bowl is rather sparse
– Nojo – best in the city for chicken-based ramen – get the one with the whole braised leg in it (and all that lovely burdock! – if they charge you extra for burdock it doesn’t matter – you need it)
– Ramen Yamadaya – best in/near Japantown
– Tsuta (SF) and Nagi (Palo Alto) were two spots we regretfully never made it to :-(
– Mensho was woefully overrated/overhyped
– Ippudo was very consistent for a good downtown ramen spot

‘Elevated’ Mexican: Nopalito (don’t forget to go to Bi-Rite for dessert!)

Contempo-American-but-still-keeping-it-fresh: Statebird Provisions

Pizza: Long Bridge

Korean: Jang su Jang (Milpitas)

Place-you-overlook-because-they’re-always-there: Limon Rotisserie

Place-that-you-keep-thinking-is-overhyped-but-isn’t: Souvla

Easy-get-together-spot-with-kids: Spark

Wine bar without pretense: Ungrafted (can also bring kids)

Casual seafood-and-stuff: Anchor Oyster Bar (may or may not be BYO?)

Classy seafood-and-stuff: Petite Crenn

Brunch: Zazie vs. Plow

So-good-but-you’ll-feel-too-full Brunch: Brenda’s

Best BYO Dinner: Zazie on Tuesdays

Classic Sushi: Kiss Seafood

Modern Sushi: Robin

Takeout Sushi: Sushi Live

Pastas: Flour & Water vs. SPQR

Hot Chocolate: Ice Cream Bar

Chocolate Chip Cookie: Tartine Manufactury (not Bakery)

General Pastries: Neighbor Bakehouse (although B Patisserie is a contender)

Classic Ice Cream: Bi-rite Creamery

Fun Ice Cream: Uji Time

The one that got away: Atelier Crenn

Written by afterdinnersneeze

22 January 2020 at 1:21pm

Posted in Happenings

Wine #2/20: 2008 Poesia (Mendoza, Argentina) [and a bonus!]

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t says: Oof. What a long day! g and I needed a little something special after that week (little did we know that it was about to get a bit more hectic, as p was about to get hand-foot-mouth … again). We ordered up some pizza from We the Pizza, one of our favorites for delivery in DC, put p to bed, and cracked open the bottle on the left:

Left: 2008 Poesia (Mendoza, Argentina); Right: 2018 Petit Bourgeois (France)

I don’t know much about Poesia. I have no romantic stories to go with it. No personal history. It popped up one day on LastBottle.com and I pounced on it based on the vinous.com review that gushed with phrases like:
– “pure, vibrant aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, cocoa powder, graphite and woodsmoke” with a “subtle floral note”.
– “dark fruit flavors are accented by minerals, licorice, fresh herbs and flowers … a fine dusting of tannins and echoing juicy length.”
– “not the most opulent [Poesia] … but may be the most suave and best balanced.”
With words like those how can I resist? Especially because historically, for g and me, Argentinian malbecs come across a bit one-dimensional, so I was thrilled at the idea of a leaner malbec with some bottle age.

It was … not as good as that reviewer’s vocubulary. It was indeed a well-balanced wine – far from the $20 juicy, plump malbecs of our past. Raspberry/framboise with black pepper, cedar, herbaceous tones. However, it ran a bit hot on the finish, and the flavors were a bit awkward – not quite melded together for a seamless experience. Perhaps it’ll integrate with years to come, but I worry about the alcohol, which doesn’t really “settle down” like tannins and fruit do. It was a good to see a not-as-fleshy side of Malbec, and it wasn’t “bad”, but it wasn’t so enthralling that I’d bother to pick up another bottle. We live, we learn [not to trust reviewers].

As now it’s two bottles that haven’t quite gone as we’ve planned, I decided to include an extra bottle with this one. You can see it in the pic above! But it doesn’t count as #3 for our challenge because it’s one of our usual weekday wines. This Sauvignon Blanc (that’s classified as a “Vin de France”, meaning it is an amalgation of grapes from all over the country – which basically means it’s “table wine”) is an example of the kind of wine that I/we like, but would never bring to a party. What the meager 85-point review misses about this wine is the very striking note of petrol (fancy-talk for “gasoline”). It’s such a pronounced note that it’s guaranteed to turn off quite a few people … unless you’re one of those that like it. We like this wine quite a bit, and year-in, year-out, it’s reliable. It’s bright and mouth-watering, and features some combination of citrus and petrol that’s short-lived on the palate – so it’s a great palate cleanser while you’re eating. Seek it out for the experience – we usually have it twice a year because it’s that good. And if you prefer this style of wine to the fat, buttery, rich, vanilla/oaky chardonnays out there, then welcome to the club!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

20 January 2020 at 8:59pm

Posted in Happenings

Dinner #1/20: Emilie’s (DC)

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t says: For our first dining experience in 2020, we enlisted the help of one of my new work friends. A wizened DC foodie, she suggested we try out her favorite new DC restaurant Emilie’s. So we booked the reservation, invited her and her husband, and went on our first DC double date!

January 2020, Friday Dinner. WHAT??? No photos!!??? You call this a food blog?? Where’s your instatweetotube?? … I’ll admit it: I forgot. It’s like I forgot how to be a blogger. The entire meal, I only reached for my phone periodically to ensure that our babysitter hadn’t called. I was lost in the food, the wines, and the new friends! Consequently, there are no pictures of the crispiest fried chicken we have ever had (and it was so flavorful!! I hadn’t had chicken that good since the days of eating Korean fried chicken at Meritage helmed by Chef Coll). Missing are snapshots of the intriguing and delicious cheese-less take on cacio e pepe pasta (secret ingredient: miso). The tartare was top-notch. The desserts were incredible. The service was competent, courteous, and had a sense of humor. All in all it was a dining experience that we had been craving since we moved here, but sorely missed on our two previous outings (O-ku and RPM Italian: take our advice and just don’t go). An excellent job by Emilie’s that restores our faith in the DC dining scene.

A few items we hope will evolve at Emilie’s … First, the “cart” I kept hearing about was … cute. It seems to provide diners an introduction to some smaller dishes that sounded pretty ho-hum by written description, but when presented table-side really caught our interest. So it was a welcome experience overall – but don’t go into it expecting the same level of cart performance as provided by one of our SF favorites, Statebird Provisions – that’s a whole ‘nother level. Second, the wine list is on the verge of greatness, but could benefit from some re-organization. With a substantial number of of wine-nerd wines (common grapes from uncommon places, or uncommon grapes entirely) at various price points, it becomes very challenging to make an educated decision. While this could typically just be resolved by chatting with a sommelier, I feel like diners nowadays should be more empowered to make their own choices, kind of like how we can read a food menu (organized by dish size, or richness, or ingredients, or whatever) and make decisions. The wines, themselves, were pretty solid (we went for a steely, minerally albarino and a fun “orange” pinot gris from Willamette Valley*), so I’m excited to keep on exploring the list in future visits.

So bring it on, DC! We’re ready! Let’s see what else you got!

*These wines are not counting in our “20&20 in 2020” challenge.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

12 January 2020 at 9:08pm

Posted in Happenings

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Wine #1/20: 2013 Luscher Ballard Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain)

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t says: Alrightie-then! Let’s start off our “20&20 in 2020” off right! On this lovely dinner at home, featuring sous vide T-bones, roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and onion jam, we knew we were going to need something bold to start off our year. But we wanted something that would marry well with the food – not just an all-palate-consuming, grape milk shake Cali cab. After pulling out 6 or 7 wines from our cellar wine fridge, I began putting them back in, as they were individually vetoed by g and I. “Too young.” “Too light.” “Too unknown.” “Too big.” “We just had that last month.” We had to be picky. For the first wine of the challenge, we wanted something “culty” (i.e. low production, low wine press / “under the radar”), but with a personal touch (i.e. g and I have visited). Also, as we’re not made of money (and this was technically not a holiday or birthday), something with a reasonable price (i.e. under a Benjamin) was ideal. In the end, there was only one:

2013 Luscher Ballard Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain)

This property on Spring Mountain puts out a tiny 200-case-ish production wine (that was a relatively recent move – they had made 100 cases before 2012). They make a single red wine (primarily cabernet sauvignon with some merlot and petite verdot) and that’s it; no white wines, no cute single-varietal bottlings of some ancient grape that no one cares about, no super-ultra-limited reserve bottlings that rob their “regular” bottlings of the best fruit. This is just a lovely family who enlists the help of their friends, the Kongsgaards (wish they were my friends!), to make wine from their favorite vines. No multi-million dollar tasting room. No PR budget. No ego. On the contrary, Christina, who handles all the communications, could not be nicer!

So how did the wine taste? It was great (which is the usual for a bottle of LB), but in a different manner than the usual LB! Historically, Luscher Ballard for us has always been superbly well-balanced between the fruit and savory flavors (so it was delicious), while also having adequate acidity and tannins to keep the mouth both watered and dry (if that makes sense). We often say that Lusher Ballard is what we bring when we’re going to a wino’s house for a dinner party. However, the ’13 bottling was drinking pretty atypically at this time. My notes from two and a half years ago originally had this tasting with explosive dark fruit that was nonetheless still kept in check by the rest of the wine, with herbs, etc. This time, after about 5 hours in a decanter, the fruits seem to have gone into hiding, only present for me while the wine was on my tongue, giving me a sense of a velvet cassis blanket with some spice (?clove?), black pepper, and the characteristic dried herb (this is what I get the most from Spring Mountain wines). But the minute the wine was off my palate – bam! – an absolutely monolithic, thrilling acidity. Turned up to 11 (or 12!). It was so strong that it knifed straight through our fat-laden T-bones and onion jam. The nearly-numbing acidity kept the mouth watering and cleansed the palate, readying me for the next bite. The alcohol wasn’t particularly noticeable for a ‘13, and the tannins were silk. In a vacuum, I think that the acidity could be perceived as astringent – so it’s not the wine I’d drink by itself: but next to food (or in a multi-wine tasting), the wine grabs you by the shoulders and slaps you in the mouth. A fun experience even if it’s not what we expected.

We are a Luscher Ballard fan club over here so we’re not even going to pretend to be impartial. If you’ve never had a LB before, seek out something like that ’12 (or ’14? Haven’t had it yet), which are likely to be a bit more balanced from the get-go. That said, g and I were happy to start off the new year on this one. Many thanks to the proprietors for making such great wines*, and we look forward to many more years of Luscher Ballard.

*No wine on this blog will ever be acquired at a discount or in exchange for a “review”. It’s our wine! We bought it fair and square! We drink it when we want! We write whatever we feel!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

5 January 2020 at 12:31pm

Posted in Happenings

Tagged with

“20&20” for 2020

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“Time’s the king of men; he’s both their parent, and he is their grave, and gives them what he will, not what they crave.”

t says: Yes, it has been a while. Months. Years. Where has the time gone? Have we truly not eaten anything worth blogging? I assure you we have, but I guess we were a bit busy? (… which is a terrible excuse). In hindsight, I realize that San Francisco was absolutely merciless in occupying our time, what with all the “hiking” and “eating” and “vineyard visiting” and “working” and “more working” and “family-starting” and “living in the moment” … Could we have posted some pictures? I suppose – but I felt that I could not provide the level of content that you, our tens of thousands of readers, expect! After all:

“If a task has once begun, never leave it till it’s done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.”

But now things are different yet again. In mid-2019, we left San Francisco with [most of] our stuff and [all of] our small family, and are now settling in a new, very different city: Washington, DC. And while we are no less busy than we used to be, g and I had a “moment” a few days ago that inspired me to log into wordpress after all this time (especially because they’ve been charging me those yearly fees!). Picture this: g & t, back in Philly, eating at Fond, and seeing the Pork Belly on the menu, and pulling up old adsz posts … like the one from our first visit, and this one, and this one, and that one time we went to Fond after that other restaurant we still couldn’t remember. As our time machine jumped, hopped, and skipped over 9 years of memories, g and I had smiles on our faces as we revisited all the great meals with all our great friends. That’s what the blog was started for! Capturing the moments! And while we know we had a wonderful time in SF, as our iPhones are full of photos to prove it, they lack the narrative, which I am concerned will fade over time. (Fortunately, g has a memory like a vise … while I’ve been known to forget a few “minor” details … like person, place, and time …)

So is it time to come crawling back to adsz? I don’t know! Even now as I type this post in the few moments of down-time that I have on New Year’s Eve, I am uncertain of my words. Is there room for an “old-fashioned” blog anymore in 2020? With facebook, twitter, youtube, instagram, twitch, netflix, hulu, disney+, and appletv, I just don’t think that anyone jacked into a computer has the time to read whole paragraphs anymore … But then I’m reminded: it’s not for you, anyways! It’s for us! So I’m going to try! To all past and current readers of the blog, welcome back to the sneeze.

So here we go … we’re starting off 2020 with a babysitter and a resolution:
“We will enjoy 20 bottles of wine* and go out to 20 dinners over the course of 2020, with blog posts to prove it.”
There. I wrote it. As it is typed, so shall it be done tried. Our first reservation has been booked (in one week!). But pacing will be important – so we’re going to need some help; if you know us personally, make some contact and help us with this goal, damnit! For the sake of the blog!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, while it doesn’t “count” in our “20&20 in 2020” challenge, Fond was frickin’ amazing. Lee Styer is nothing short of a superhero. The foie gras was the best I’ve ever had (supplanting Bibou’s which had just supplanted his). The pork belly is as good as it always was. Go there and be as happy as we.

*These bottles of wine must be wines that are beyond the “usual” weekday wines for us. They don’t necessarily need to be at a restaurant, but they do require a bit of ceremony: decanting, fancy glasses, swirling, sniffing, etc.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

1 January 2020 at 12:01am

Posted in Happenings

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That time we went to Hawaii

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t says:  As now g and I are Californians, it is only right that we vacation where Californians vacation: Hawaii.  From my understanding, it seems like Hawaii is to San Franciscans as Florida is to New Jerseyans.  Never having been to Hawaii, g and I were pumped.  As I write this, it’s been a little while, so the details will be lacking (as usual), but I hope these pictures will remind g and me of just how much fun we had!

Indeed, the first place one is told to visit in Hawaii is Helena’s.  Home of “traditional Hawaiian” cuisine, g and I didn’t quite know what to expect.  I have to say that there was a bit of trepidation when we pulled up to the parking lot – it doesn’t look like much from the outside, occupying one space in row of shops in a relatively residential neighborhood.  But we knew it was legit because it had a line … quite a long line … meanwhile the restaurant literally in the next space over had absolutely no one in it (I kinda felt bad for them).  Had we been there for longer, I would have considered trying out their food, too … but alas, with only one stomach, we had to go for Helena’s.

The menu required some googling, as g and I didn’t quite know what we were getting ourselves into.  Between bloggers and the folks sitting next to us (and older couple from Florida who were very friendly; they visit Hawaii at least once a year), we concocted an order to experience “a taste of Hawaii”.

Ok … so we found out that a taste of Hawaii isn’t exactly appeasing to the eyes – lots of browns and whites.  Meats, rice, meats, rice; and of course the purple shade of poi.  Before I go into how things taste, I do wonder: how do Hawaiians maintain their bowels??  There was not a legitimate vegetable on the entire menu!  Ok – back to not being gross: the food was CRAZY-good.  The kalbi (in the upper left position), was quite tasty.  It reminded me of Korean kalbi, but not quite as heavily seasoned.  More important was kalua pig (left position) and the wrapped lau lau (lower right position).  It was interesting to compare the flavors of these two pork dishes, with one coming across with more of a smoky, bbq flavor, while the other had some vegetal flavors courtesy of the leaves in which it was cooked.  Poi is a pass for us – the flavor was quite a bit odd – not sure how to describe it, but I’m not sure how it really works with the rest of the dishes.  As far as what was missing: kimchi.  I yearned for some kimchi.  Something acidic and spicy to really round out the flavor profile.  I had rice and I had meat – really all I needed was some kimchi and it would have been heaven!

There was also an obligatory “have-to-visit-while-in-Oahu” visit to Liliha Bakery.  Now I want to start off saying that I don’t like cream puffs.  I think that just because you have a boring, tasteless pastry, injecting it with more sugar doesn’t make it better … it just makes it sweet.  Well that’s not the case with these puffs.  These “coco puffs” are insane, with a chocolate pudding inside and a ?macademic nut? topping; it’s like the baby of a cream puff and a reese’s.  So amazing.  The donut all the way to the left is their poi donut, which I actually enjoyed quite a bit.  The texture was kind of chewy and resilient, which I thought was great (kind of like a Korean rice cake).  The malasada (in the middle) I think had guava in it, which was less exciting for me, as I find guava to be too potent for my fragile taste buds (the rest of the donut was good!).

And now here was probably our best meal of Hawaii.  After watching a junior surf competition on the north shore, we stopped by Romy’s prawn and shrimp shack.  The layout is similar to a Philly cheesesteak shop – you order at the window and they prep it right there.  While it seems that most people get a fried version, g and I went for the steamed option, as this would allow us time to get to the beach and watch the sunset without having to worry about fried-ness getting soggy.  And it. was. amazing.  The shrimp were huge, perfectly cooked (surprising!), and funt o dip in the sauces (we mixed together the soyu and garlic).  We could not imagine a more Hawaiian experience than sitting on that beach with our shellfish.

Another Hawaiian chain that often makes bloggers’ lists is the Koa pancake house.  I have to say that this one was a little underwhelming.  It came across as more “fusiony” than truly authentic anything.  In the foreground, we had a super-dry/over-cooked chicken, tossed in a “Korean sauce” (that lacked heat) over a mooshy waffle.  g went for a take on eggs benedict (that I think had some kind of kimchi-inspired sauce on it), but that English muffin was quite anemic in appearance and taste.  I mean, the food was fine if you’re in a pinch, but not worth going out of your way for.

This photo is a place-holder for an entire experience: if you go to Honolulu, you have to go to Shangri-la.  The collection of art is amazing.  To post the pictures would do it disservice, because it’s really all about being surrounded by such an eclectic mix of pieces.  Do it.

We did it.  We went to Cinnamon’s.  The famous eatery that features guava (background) and red velvet (foreground) pancakes.  Are you surprised?  Probably not.  However – you should be surprised that it was g’s wishing that led us there – she loves guava.  As I mentioned above: I could do without it.  Cinnamon’s has been open for 32 years.  I daresay that it has not been renovated once.  We sat in the oddest gazebo-looking thing in the middle of the dining room, looking around at tourists feeding their children pounds and pounds of sugar (that’s right!  even I thought that these pancakes were a little over-the-top) – not exactly the ambience I was hoping for … and then these pancakes hit the table … and even though my eyes and brain clearly said “you probably shouldn’t eat all this pancake”, my mouth responded with a “watch me”.  I confess: they were good (the red velvet ones at least).  It’s worth a trip.  Drop in, eat some pancakes, and pop out …    

This is another terrible picture.  I got it.  There was such terrible lighting, I had to get up real close.  While in Hawaii, we had to do at least one Roy’s restaurant, so we ventured Eating House 1849.  This mess of rib was the best item we had.  Smokey and sweet, the meat just fell off the bone.  The rest of the items we had were pretty tasty as well (some Brussels sprouts, some fish, an obligatory molten chocolate dessert), but it was the ribs that I will remember from this meal.  Just so delicious!

What would an adsz post be without some ramen?  Goma Tei’s tan tan ramen is well-known in Hawaii, with a delightful sesame-based broth.  It was thick and creamy, adding a great texture.  However, it was a bit overpowering, as the other ingredients were difficult to shine through the broth’s flavors.  Meanwhile, the pork was tasty, but a bit on the drier side.  I can see why most would like this ramen (it’s quite unctuous and uniquely tasty), but for me, I felt like it needed to have some stronger complementary additions to stand up to such a strong background.  Super-glad I tried it, but if I went back, I’d try some others.

Whereas the Goma Tei ramen had some highlights, I have to say that the AGU ramen (another famous shop in Hawaii) was absolutely forgettable.  Above, you can see a version amped up with some black garlic, some fried garlic, and the [super-gimicky-but-they’re-known-for-it] Parmigiana cheese.  First off, lets’ just settle it now: the cheese added nothing to this dish.  Its texture was wrong, and its flavor wasn’t useful, rather, it only masked every other ingredient in the bowl.  The rest of the dish was kind of bland (cheese notwithstanding), so much so that I dumped the kimchi into the soup just to jazz things up.  Fortunately, the service was quick and nice, so we were able to fill up and move along with our day.   My advice is to skip out on AGU ramen and instead go to the udon shop around the corner, Marukame, which was incredible.  I wish my pictures would have turned out, but the place is totally legit.  You can see them making the noodles from scratch, cooking them up, and composing the soups to your specifications.  Seriously worth waiting in their line and dealing with the curt, borderline-rude service (i.e. don’t expect to stay long!)

One of g’s dreams was to drink an umbrella-laden drink by the beach.  Boom – mission accomplished.  Mai Thai!  But to follow it up: you have to go to Duke’s Waikiki.  It’s essential.  The food isn’t necessarily authentic, but it is quite tasty, including multiple food groups (veggies!), and served an atmosphere that’s just so classically tourist-Hawaii that to miss it would be a crime.  Sit back, relax, eat some raw tuna served over puffed rice, and bask in the glow of the Hawaiian sun!

Oh the shaved ice.  I totally forget the name of this cart/shack, but their shaved ice was the best sweet thing I had on the trip – it was perfect.  Ice cream covered in ice and spritzed with flavors and spiked with fruit and mochi – it was incredible.  Why have I never had it before?  We need this exact treat on the mainland, stat!

And just for k, we went to banan …  That’s not ice cream, so much as whipped frozen banana … served with toppings … and served in a papaya.  That’s right!  In a papaya!  g was loving it … (although I wished it was another one of those shaved ice concoctions, above …)

In all, our first trip to Hawaii was pretty darn incredible.  We went on a fun hike, we tried/nearly-got-blown-out-to-sea during stand-up paddle-boarding.  We beached-it-up right.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

7 June 2017 at 12:10am

Posted in Happenings

Our First Sonoma Experience

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t says:  g and I happened to be meeting a wonderful winemaker in Napa (lunch at Mustard’s Grill!), when we got back into the car and pondered, “where to next?”.  Having just done a trip to Heitz on our previous visit, we wondered whether other free [good] visits could be had.  One name came to mind: Merry Edwards.  This pinot/chardonnay/SB powerhouse has been making great wine in Sonoma for some time, now … and they, like Heitz, are one of the few top caliber wineries to still give free tastings!  … appointment-free!!

So g and I toughed it through the windy roads of the mountains/hills that lay between Napa and Sonoma.  It was surreal to be seeing such fabulous views from our own tiny little C30 that we owned in Philly for all those years …  And then we finally arrived:

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Trust me, I tried my best to take pictures inside, but I couldn’t find a way to do it and not look like the other four tourists taking selfies.  I was embarassed.  (Or maybe I was just embarassing g?)  So I guess my words will have to paint the picture.  Merry Edwards has a cute little courtyard area, complete with a fountain or two.  You walk into a main reception area where you can “sign up” for a tasting.  There are 2-3 rotating tasting rooms for walk-ins that rotate in terms of which one is “going off” when.  It’s kind of like getting in line for go-kart riding at an amusement park: everyone lines up, then the first 10 or so people all get into the first set of cars and go; and then the next 10 get into the second wave, etc.  Each room opens up as soon as it’s done and then the next group goes.  I found it to be a great way to deal with an onslaught of people all at once – instead of having just a single bar, where employees have to remember which wine they’re pouring for whom, they basically invite a group of people into a closed off room with a separate bar and do a single [standing] tasting with a whole group at once (~15-min).  This way everyone gets to hear everything about the vineyard history and a tidbit about each wine, and we’re all on the same page.  Pretty cool setup!  It’s like having two-to-three revolving bars!  And by “group”, I have to admit that it can be quite small – we had only one other couple in our group, but they could have easily have accommodated more if needed.  They also offer a [free!] seated tasting that included some chardonnay, but that required an appointment; ours was four pinots and a SB.  The pinots were a great study in California pinot noir, each one with different kinds of fruit and savory flavors.  I will warn you, however, that the pinots tend to be quite spendy (~$50-$60/bottle), and I wasn’t quite moved enough by any of them to open my wallet (in my book a $50 wine better at least take my breath away).  The SB, however, was quite remarkable, reminding us of a baby Illumination … with a pricepoint to match (~$32).  And unlike most wines found at wineries, it’s actually harder to find this wine on the retail market for cheaper than at the tasting room, so I could buy with a clear conscience.  While not as petrol-driven, smack-you-in-the-face as Heitz’s SB (this one had a dollop of vanilla oak and a smidge more stone fruit like peach instead of the petrol in Heitz’s), it was a very nice showing, working well with the Dungeness crab g and I just cooked up at home …  Ahhhh – California life is just too hard – wine and crabs in November?  C’est la vie!

We did walk around Sebastapol’s The Barlow as well, an area with some tasting rooms (including Kosta Browne and Wind Gap!), restaurants, and other tchotchke-vendors.  It was quite cute.  This was our first trip to Sonoma, and it’s laid the groundwork for future visits.  Just try and keep us away!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 December 2016 at 11:40am

Posted in Happenings